We have all been to those yoga classes where the teacher talks about breathing in divine light and engaging your lotus blossoms right? If our eyes weren’t already closed we’d be rolling them… Pleeeeeez.. enough of the new age crap…
The thing is practicing mindful techniques, positive thinking, consciously developing feelings of gratitude, cultivating self love, and breathing in.. ahem.. light. These really do work. I mean I cringe at the idea as much as the next person.. but really, when we do these practices with an open mind they actually do change our brain structure. We “feel” better. We “think” better. The benefits of dropping our cynicism and practicing these techniques has a great deal of personal and practical value in our lives.I am reading a book right now called “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom” in which the two author’s (a neuropsychologist & a neurologist) talk about how many Buddhist concepts and techniques fall hand in hand with current scientific models and ideas about how the brain/mind works. The mindfulness techniques used in Buddhist practices are incredible relevant to the modern brain.
We are hard wired to feel fear stronger than pleasure. For example… let’s say a wild animal is trying to eat you, suddenly a good romp in the hay and some breakfast is no longer so important right? Our brains our designed to keep us alive. We react to survive. However in modern day life the volume of our brain’s stress reactions are totally out of scope with the actual realities of danger we face. Waiting in looooong line at at Starbuck’s when we are late for work hardly qualifies as life endangering but the stress feels very intense and real. Our heart rate increases, feelings of panic or anger might take over. Yoga (especially the gentle and slow kinds I teach) is aimed at quieting the mind while stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. We actively engage our sense of relaxation. We “train” our brains to become good at not freaking out. We actually physically change the structure and shape of our brain, which in turn changes the whole way we feel and experience stress and life in general. This isn’t fluff.. really. It is neuroplasticity; a wonderful tool that we have access to no matter what our physical condition is.